Title page for ETD etd-08022011-201456

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Huh, Jung-Hyun
Author's Email Address jhhuh@vt.edu
URN etd-08022011-201456
Title Biochemical, Molecular and Functional Analysis of Volatile Terpene Formation in Arabidopsis Roots
Degree PhD
Department Biology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Tholl, Dorothea B. C. Committee Chair
Schmale, David G. III Committee Member
Tokuhisa, James G. Committee Member
Vinatzer, Boris A. Committee Member
Winkel, Brenda S. J. Committee Member
  • secondary (specialized) metabolism
  • plant volatiles
  • terpene synthase
  • soil-borne pathogen
  • oomycete
  • Pythium
  • sesquiterpene
  • root chemical defense
Date of Defense 2011-07-20
Availability unrestricted
Plants produce secondary (or specialized) metabolites to respond to a variety of environmental changes and threats. Especially, volatile compounds released by plants facilitate short and long distance interaction with both beneficial and harmful organisms. Comparatively little is known about the organization and role of specialized metabolism in root tissues. In this study, we have investigated the root-specific formation and function of volatile terpenes in the model plant Arabidopsis.

As one objective, we have characterized the two root-specific terpene synthases, TPS22 and TPS25. Both enzymes catalyze the formation of several volatile sesquiterpenes with (E)-β-farnesene as the major product. TPS22 and TPS25 are expressed in the root in distinct different cell type-specific patterns and both genes are induced by jasmonic acid. Unexpectedly, both TPS proteins are localized to mitochondria, demonstrating a subcellular localization of terpene specialized metabolism in compartments other than the cytosol and plastids. (E)-β-Farnesene is produced at low concentrations suggesting posttranslational modifications of the TPS proteins and/or limited substrate availability in mitochondria. We hypothesize that the mitochondrial localization of TPS22 and TPS25 reflects evolutionary plasticity in subcellular compartmentation of TPS proteins with emerging or declining activity. Since (E)-β-farnesene inhibits Arabidopsis root growth in vitro, mitochondrial targeting of both proteins may fine tune (E)-β-farnesene concentrations to prevent possible autotoxic or inhibitory effects of this terpene in vivo.

We further investigated the role of volatile terpenes in Arabidopsis roots in interaction with the soil-borne oomycete, Pythium irregulare. Infection of roots with P. irregulare causes emission of the C11-homoterpene (or better called C4-norterpene) 4,8-dimethylnona-1,3,7-triene (DMNT), which is a common volatile induced by biotic stress in aerial parts of plants but was not previously known to be produced in plant roots. We demonstrate that DMNT is synthesized by a novel, root-specific pathway via oxidative degradation of the C30-triterpene, arabidiol. DMNT exhibits inhibitory effects on P. irregulare mycelium growth and oospore germination in vitro. Moreover, arabidiol and DMNT biosynthetic mutants were found to be more susceptible to P. irregulare infection and showed higher rates of Pythium colonization in comparison to wild type plants. Together, our studies demonstrate differences and plasticity in the metabolic organization and function of terpenes in roots in comparison to aboveground plant tissues.

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